Saturday, February 17, 2007

It May Be Safer To Lick The Office Toilet Seat Than Your Messy Desk

Let's face it, people are slobs. Even at work, most of us aren't the picture of organizational and hygienic excellence. Take MY office, for instance. I've got stacks of lab books, experimental notes, research journals, and assorted paperwork piled on either side of my computer. Occasionally I have to shove it out of the way just to make room for my mousepad. There are a few areas, such as the space behind my monitor (which sits on the joint of my L-shaped desk) where dust settles and hasn't been cleaned since the government had a budget surplus. I usually eat at my desk, so there are sometimes crumbs laying around. I usually have one or two empty cans of Pepsi sitting on the desk, and I have my share of snacks in my desk drawer, including some tea bags, a box of Raman noodles (for an emergency lunch option), some packaged fruit leather strips, and Altoids ("curiously strong" for my curiously strong bad breath). It's been at least a couple months since I wiped down my keyboard and mouse with an alcohol wipe, and that was just because I had been sick and had to share my computer with someone one afternoon.

Despite my organization and hygiene, I'd still rank myself as about average (well, okay, maybe a little worse than average). Most of us keep snacks in our desks and have at least one good stack of unfiled paperwork. Being an office-eater does take some skill, though I prefer eating out when possible (as I've remarked before: HERE).

Recently a study came out that found the average office desk has a higher bacterial count than the average office toilet:

That's right. Swabs of office equipment and belongings have more bacteria than the porcelain throne. Personally, I find it a bit alarming that my desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the spot where I and my colleagues plant our naked, pimply asses.

Interestingly, though women's desks were more organized, they were three to four times more bacteria-laden. The authors believe this is due in part to the fact that women were more likely to have snacks in their desks than men (75% of women), had cosmetics and hand lotions which could harbor bacteria, and were more likely to interact with young children (which, as I can assure you from personal experience, are little illness-incubators). But before us men can become too cocky about this result, we should note that the study found men's wallets to be the single worst item for bacterial concentration.

So far I haven't learned what species of bacteria were found. I'd say there's a pretty good chance most of them are benign. Remember, not all bacteria are "bad" bacteria.

The authors went on to report that desks that are regularly disinfected have 25% fewer bacteria. They suggest disinfecting once a day. Not likely, given my hectic schedule, but at least once a month would be a step up for me.

So the next time I head to my second office (the one with the flushable office chair and tiled floor), I'll remember this report. Maybe it will spur me to clean my office more often.

Or maybe I'll just eat my Raman noodles in the bathroom stall.


Anonymous said...

I did NOT need to know that your ass was pimply.

CC: INAP! said...

Someone is bound to come out with antibacterial wallets.